First State National Historical Park

First State National Historical Park

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“President Obama’s designation of the Woodlawn property as part of the First State National Monument is a celebration of Delaware’s rich contributions to American history and its inherent natural beauty. It’s only fitting that here in our nation’s first state, the National Park system is made whole, representing every state in the country.Blaine Phillips, senior vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional director for The Conservation Fund

This monument tells the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution.

The park is comprised of three historic areas related to Delaware’s rich history:  the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff’s House), and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley.

The Court House and the New Castle Historic District, including the Green, the Sheriff’s House, and numerous additional resources from the time of earliest settlement through the Federal era, are National Historic Landmarks.

With more than 5 million people living within 25 miles of the monument, this national monument provides greater access to parkland for urban populations while protecting in perpetuity the history of the First State’s early settlement by Swedish, Dutch and English immigrants.

The Constitution of the United States was completed in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, and then sent to the Congress of the Confederation for transmittal to the State legislatures. At the Golden Fleece Tavern on the Dover Green, a Delaware convention ratified the Constitution on December 7, 1787, earning Delaware the accolade of “the First State.” Though the Tavern no longer exists, Dover Green is the central area of the Dover Green Historic District that signifies this event and many others, including the mustering of a Continental Regiment during the American Revolution and the reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

With the March 25, 2013 designation, the First State National Monument in Delaware makes our National Park system whole, with every state in the country now having a National Park Service unit.

Public Input

Establishing units of the National Park System commemorating Delaware’s early history, and preserving the 1,100 acre Woodlawn tract had been priorities for Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) for years.  The entire Delaware delegation and Vice President Joe Biden expressed support for a national park unit designation.

A diverse team of public and private partners, elected officials and preservationists worked with The Conservation Fund to purchase the Woodlawn property in order to have it donated to the National Park Service as federal public land in order for it to receive permanent protection.

In August 2012, the Delaware Congressional delegation and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis hosted a public meeting. The standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people, voiced support and encouragement for moving forward with the designation.

On March 25, 2013, First State National Monument was established by President Barack Obama.

On December 19, 2014, Congress approved the First State National Historical Park Act of 2013 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, creating the first and only national park in Delaware.  The legislation that passed authorized the sites included in the First State National Monument in Delaware to become the First State National Historical Park and expanded to include additional park sites in all three counties of Delaware and an area of land in Delaware County, PA.

Kayakers on the portion of the Brandywine River within the historic 1,100-acre Woodlawn property become part of the First State National Monument in March 2013.  Photo credit: Whitney Flanagan, The Conservation Fund

Kayakers on the portion of the Brandywine River within the historic 1,100-acre Woodlawn property become part of the First State National Monument in March 2013.
Photo credit: Whitney Flanagan, The Conservation Fund